Lentil soup (sans ham)

When I’m sick, I want a bowl of lentil soup. When the weather changes, I want a bowl of lentil soup. When I’ve had a good day, I want a bowl of lentil soup. Honestly, most every day I have a craving for lentil soup.

In addition to their scrumptious nutty and woody flavor, lentils are rich in dietary fiber, iron, and protein, and they’re also low in calories. They are one of nature’s healthiest foods, and are inexpensive with a long shelf life. As far as I’m concerned, lentils are a perfect food.

Most lentil soup recipes call for diced ham, but ham isn’t usually something I have stocked in my refrigerator. Also, if you use vegetable broth, the soup can be enjoyed by vegetarians and vegans. It’s a simple, delicious, and nutritious soup that cooks up with little attention needed by the chef and usually in just an hour.

Sans Ham Lentil Soup

  • 1 Tbl canola oil
  • 2 large cloves of shallot or half a small white onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 8 oz vegetable, chicken, or beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • For finishing: A pinch of Kosher salt or smoked garlic salt and a tsp of balsamic vinegar

Warm the canola oil in a soup pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the shallot (or onion) and garlic, and lightly sauté them for 2 or 3 minutes. When the shallot and garlic start to turn transparent, add the broth and water and turn the burner up to high. Bring the liquid up to a boil.

Add the lentils and bring the liquid back to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling again, turn the burner to low and simmer the soup, uncovered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Every 15 minutes during cooking, give the soup a stir and check the liquid in the pot. Until the last few minutes of cooking, you want the lentils to be slightly submerged in water. You may need to add water, 1/4 cup at a time, during the cooking process to make sure this happens. You’re more likely to have to add water during the winter and in dry climates.

When the soup is ready, the lentils should be moist and a little mushy. You don’t want al dente lentils, but you also don’t want to overcook them into a paste.

Serve the soup with a pinch of Kosher salt or smoked garlic salt and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar added to each bowl. Don’t add the salt earlier in the cooking process or the lentils will have difficulty getting soft.

I prefer to use Kiawe Smoked Garlic Sea Salt from the Aloha Spice Company, which I order from Hawaii (yum!):

In addition to the ingredients listed above, you might also want to add diced carrots or celery. If you do, add these at the same time as the shallot and garlic, and increase the sauté time until it’s easy to pierce the carrots with a fork (about 5 to 7 minutes).

10 comments posted

  1. Posted by Meg - 02/21/2011

    Sounds delicious! I love lentil soup. It’s so delicious and healthy, too, especially with all that fiber and protein. Sometimes I “splurge” and add dehydrated mushrooms, which gives a nice meaty chewiness to it. I just toss them in about a half hour before it’s done — whatever the package recommends for rehydration and cooking. You can also add in spinach or other greens.

  2. Posted by Erin Doland - 02/21/2011

    @Meg — Dehydrated mushrooms = BRILLIANT!! A terrific idea. Thank you so much for the suggestion.

  3. Posted by Harmony - 02/21/2011

    Oh, that’s a good idea. Dried mushrooms make any soup better!

    Lentil stew is a regular winter meal around here. I sometimes add curried lamb, or throw in sliced chicken sausage to make it a heartier meal. And I almost always add a bunch of chopped kale. It’s a great way to get your greens!

  4. Posted by Jen - 02/21/2011

    I recently made a resolution to try adding more lentils and beans to my diet, even though I’ve never been a big fan. (It’s more of a texture aversion than taste, since I love dal.)

    Are there any types of lentils or beans (varieties or brands) that you can recommend for the legume-averse? Or that I should avoid? I have no idea what to look for when purchasing good lentils, and there are so many options. I have wondered if some of my dislike is because I’ve been buying sub-standard products.

    Thanks for the advice!

  5. Posted by Erin Doland - 02/21/2011

    @Jen — I don’t know which dals you like, so I don’t know if you prefer a more mushy or sturdy end result. I’m going to assume that you want a lentil that isn’t puny. Let me know if I’ve made the wrong assumption …

    French green lentils, the best of them are called “lentilles du Puy” and have a French AOC seal on the bag, are more hearty than some other types of lentils. In this recipe I called for just plain green lentils, which are fast cookers and available in most grocery stores. If you use French green lentils, you’ll probably need to increase your cooking time a little bit. And, if you find the “lentilles du Puy,” prepare to pay a lot more. (You won’t regret the purchase, though.)

    You might also want to try this recipe with black (sometimes called Beluga) lentils. They hold their shape longer than most other lentils. And, they’re shiny, like Beluga caviar, when they’re finished cooking.

    Lentilles du Puy: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....ifried-20/

    French green lentils (this is four a 4-pack): http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....ifried-20/

    Black Beluga lentils: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....ifried-20/

  6. Posted by Kate - 02/21/2011

    @Erin — approximately how many servings would you say this makes?

  7. Posted by Erin Doland - 02/21/2011

    @Kate — This is the amount of soup I would make for a 4-person family if the family is also having a hearty salad, some bread, and dessert. If this is the entire meal, I’d say it will serve two. If you want to double the recipe, I’d use 16 oz of broth and just 3 cups of water (you can always add water later if you need to). Also, I wouldn’t double the amount of oil — 1 Tbl should work for the additional veggies.

  8. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 02/22/2011

    I only cooked with lentils one time and it was gross. It was years ago so I don’t even remember what it was. This sounds really good however so I think I may have to give it another shot!

  9. Posted by diane - 02/22/2011

    @Erin, first let me say, I jumped here from your Uncluttered blog a while ago, and I TOTALLY <3 both of them! You are an amazing woman!

    Now, I know this isn't the point of this recipe, but i happen to have a ham hock in the freezer. At what point in this recipe would I add that?

    If only I could convince my children that soup = meal and does NOT equal evil! LOL. yeah that's right. I have the only household of children in American who won't eat soup.

  10. Posted by Erin Doland - 02/22/2011

    @diane — Thanks! Simply dice up the ham and add it at the same time as the shallot and garlic. Saute it a bit longer than the 2 or 3 minutes in the recipe, you’ll want the edges of the diced ham to be a little brown. You will probably be able to reduce the amount of oil you use, as the fat in the ham will melt and help with sauteeing.

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